Retired U.S. General David Petraeus, the man credited with helping turn around the second Iraq War, has resigned as chief of the Central Intelligence Agency, citing an extramarital affair.
Petraeus wrote in a letter to CIA staffers Friday that he submitted his resignation to U.S. President Barack Obama in person Thursday. Petraeus writes that he showed “extremely poor judgment” and that such behavior is unacceptable in a leader.
The former general says it has been the greatest of privileges to serve in the CIA, and thanked its workers for what he called their “extraordinary service.”
President Obama released a statement Friday saying that through Petraeus’ lifetime of service in the military and as American intelligence chief, he has made the country safer and stronger.
U.S. media reports say the FBI uncovered the affair while investigating a possible security breach involving Petraeus’ emails. The reports quote unnamed U.S. officials identifying journalist Paula Broadwell, who wrote a Petraeus biography, as the woman with whom Petraeus was having the affair.
The reports say Broadwell had almost unlimited access to Petraeus in Afghanistan. The officials familiar with the investigation say agents had reason to believe Broadwell may also have had access to or tried to access his personal email account.
But the FBI did not name Broadwell as the retired general’s mistress. The general also did not disclose any names.
Making of a Military Leader
Petraeus, 60, joined the military right out of high school when he entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
Petraeus spent 37 years with the U.S. Army, becoming one of the world’s best-known military leaders before retiring and taking over the CIA last year.
The four-star general was the mastermind of the U.S. troop surge in Iraq under former president George W. Bush and led a similar surge in Afghanistan.
As the commander of U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq from February 2007 to September 2008, he is widely credited with turning around the Iraq conflict and pulling the country back from the brink of a full-fledged sectarian war.
Petraeus assumed command of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan in July of 2010, after overseeing a wider region encompassing Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Yemen for nearly two years as the head of the U.S. Central Command.
Appointing Petraeus to the post of CIA director, President Obama called the paratrooper one of the nation’s “leading strategic thinkers” and one of the “finest military officers of all time.”
Education and Personal Life
Petraeus was born in the eastern state of New York on November 7, 1952. His mother was a librarian and his father a Dutch sea captain.
Petraeus married his wife, Holly Knowlton, the daughter of an Army general, in 1974, two months after graduating from West Point, where her father was superintendent.
About a decade later, he earned a Master’s degree in public affairs from Princeton University and later, a doctorate in international relations.
Petraeus and his wife have a daughter and a son. Their son also joined the Army and served in Afghanistan, while Holly Petraeus has helped military families through her own work with the Obama administration. Mrs. Petraeus heads the office for servicemember affairs in the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Retired General Petraeus kept a lower profile in his position as spy chief than he did in the military. But his time at the CIA was tainted recently by questions over the killing of U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three other Americans at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi on September 11. Two of the Americans killed were security officers working for the CIA.
Petraeus was scheduled to testify before lawmakers next week about the incident, which has seen officials arguing over who was responsible for the security breakdown.
ABC News quotes an unnamed U.S. official as saying Petraeus’ decision to step down had “absolutely nothing to do with Benghazi.” ABC says congressional hearings on the Benghazi incident will continue as planned with CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell testifying in Petraeus’s place as acting director.